Exams results: Sturgeon and Swinney told to 'get it fixed, or go' by former First Minister Lord McConnell

Scottish students stage exam results protests in Edinburgh and GlasgowScottish students stage exam results protests in Edinburgh and Glasgow
Scottish students stage exam results protests in Edinburgh and Glasgow
The former education secretary and First Minister issued the warning as John Swinney faces calls to resign.

A former first minister of Scotland has told Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney to “get it fixed or go” following days of controversy and rising pressure on the Scottish Government over exam results.

The system, produced by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and approved by the Scottish Government when this year’s exams were cancelled, saw 26.2% of grades changed during the moderation process based on criteria including schools’ historic performances.

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Writing in The Sunday Times, former Labour leader and First Minister Lord McConnell reflected on the lessons learned from the year 2000 when the wrong – or no – results were received by 20,000 school and college students across Scotland.

He was appointed education minister later that year, and said he “knew that I would have to resign if we did not succeed” in “fixing this mess” for the 2001 results.

In the article, Lord McConnell, who became first minister in November 2001, wrote: “Lessons learnt, honesty, good judgment and hard work had turned it around… Yet, 20 years on, thousands of young dreams have been shattered again.

“In 2000, the chaos was indiscriminate. It affected students no matter their postcode – but in 2020 it is targeted.

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“In 2000, it was incompetence and overload – but in 2020 it seems to have been deliberate and ignored.”

Lord Jack McConnell of Glenscorrodale has warned the SNP to 'get exam results fixed, or go'.Lord Jack McConnell of Glenscorrodale has warned the SNP to 'get exam results fixed, or go'.
Lord Jack McConnell of Glenscorrodale has warned the SNP to 'get exam results fixed, or go'.

He called for First Minister Ms Sturgeon and her deputy Mr Swinney to “announce an immediate and urgent review” of results in the next 48 hours, with a task force appointed.

Lord McConnell added: “For the First Minister and Education Secretary to have accepted these grades and to defend them because children in these schools have always done worse is breathtaking.

“Others, already traumatised by months of lockdown and now feeling powerless, will simply give up.

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“Meanwhile, ministers expect to keep their well-paid jobs and careers and carry on regardless.

“Every headteacher (there are only 357) should be contacted by the end of this week to highlight specific problems. Group appeals should be allowed from schools where the results are clearly wrong. Appeals should allow changes up to A passes where they are deserved.

“This should be completed before the end of August.

“Put the teachers and pupils at the centre of the system. Lessons learnt, honest judgment and hard work. Get it fixed – or go.”

Education secretary Mr Swinney now faces a potential no confidence motion from Scottish Labour at Holyrood next week as calls for his resignation intensify.

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Mr Swinney will make a statement on the controversy in parliament next week.

The Scottish Conservatives have said they will back the no confidence motion, with the Scottish Liberal Democrats saying they will “consider” supporting the motion if they are not “satisfied” with Mr Swinney’s statement.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said Mr Swinney “let down thousands of students” with the exam results this week.

He said: “John Swinney and the SNP Government have let down thousands of students just at a time when they needed them most. The have baked in the inequalities in education that have been growing for over a decade.

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"For the sake of the students we need to focus on resolving this issue and therefore we want to hear from the Education Secretary on Tuesday about his plans. If we are not satisfied that he has a plan that will work we will consider backing a motion of no confidence.”

Ross Greer, the Scottish Greens education spokesman, said: “Ross Greer MSP said the government’s position on the exam results was “not credible”.

He said: “The Scottish Government claims downgrading the results of working class pupils was necessary to maintain the ‘credibility’ of the system. That position in itself is simply not credible and shows a worrying disregard for thousands of young people.

“The Education Secretary has so far failed to grasp the scale of the problem, but there is still a limited amount of time to fix it. Mr Swinney must show some humility, admit he got this wrong and set about fixing it.

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“Young people who are making important choices about their futures need to see an urgent resolution to this avoidable mess.”

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